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Folk of Norfolk share their history, local produce, gorgeous views and their good cheer, writes Peta McCartney.
On an island renowned for its history, natural beauty, simple lifestyle and great food, the sound of Norfolk Islanders speaking their own language is a surprise and a delight.
“Whutta-waye you?” (How are you?) and “Watawieh. All yorlye gwen?” (Hello. How are you all?) I hear frequently on my daily wanderings, as the locals greet each other.
The sing-song language, a blend of 18th-century English and Tahitian, is the island’s secondary language after English. It remains alive through the descendants of the Bounty Mutineers, who arrived on the island in 1856, and other long-time residents, who make up today’s population of about 1700.
Listening to this lilting language, hearing stories told and eavesdropping as residents stop and chat brings an unexpected dimension to my visit in a way that’s difficult to pinpoint.
It’s as if history is just out of reach, around the next bend or rubbing my shoulders as I try and cram as much into my five-day stay as possible.
Norfolk Island has a yesteryear quality about it. About 1600km off the eastern coast of Australia and discovered by Captain Cook in 1774, the island’s subtropical climate and few residents make it a perfect place to explore.
Honesty stalls along the roads welcome buyers of home produce, while guava trees produce a bounty of fruit for the locals to pick and eat, or turn into jellies and jams for visitors to take home.
Locals stop and chat, and all wave a friendly greeting from their cars as I drive around discovering the island’s many attractions.
“Downtown”, the island’s World Heritage-listed Kingston area, will please any history buff, with its convict-built buildings and museums, and cemetery filled with the headstones of the island’s original dwellers.
Nearby, golden beaches beckon, calm and safe from breakers on the outlying reefs.
Picnic spots are plentiful and all with gorgeous views of the countryside or the ocean, while dozens of bush tracks offer a chance to see the island’s elusive green parakeet.
All is a green, calm oasis, with temperatures almost never falling below 10C or rising above 26C, and the idea of being marooned is an easy daydream when cows are often the most frequent travellers on the roads.
Burnt Pine township, with its single roundabout and easy pace, is filled with little gems.
There’s duty-free shopping for the bargain-hunter wanting to cash in on fashion, jewellery or Lego, while soaps smelling of Norfolk pine can be bought from Norfolk Bath and Body.
Step into Craig’s Knitwear for hand-knits combining possum, merino and mulberry silk.
Designs are from 50 countries, including Bavaria and Scotland, as well as New Zealand.
Foodies have plenty to choose from the local produce, fresh fish and beef, and seasonal menus giving chefs plenty of scope to showcase their talents, especially during Taste Norfolk Island’s food festival in November.
A range of activities, including chocolate making, pickling and sausage making, contribute to a week of activity, fitted around enough free time to relax and enjoy the sights and pleasures of a community which is ready to offer a warm “welkam” next time you visit. As the locals say, “Yorlye kum baek sun”.